MAYVILLE - The Chautauqua County 4-H program is running out of options to stay solvent, Emily Kidd summed up to the legislature's Human Services Committee on Wednesday.
As the local 4-H issues leader, Kidd formally appealed the county for $70,000 in support, which she said would be matched by state and federal grants. Without assistance, the youth development organization and its $100,000 annual operating budget may run out of funds by next year.
"We are in turmoil," Kidd said in an interview after the meeting. "We cannot rely on fundraising and go door-to-door asking for money."
Emily Kidd, county 4-H issues leader, speaks to the legislature’s Human Services Committee regarding the need for county support.
P-J photo by Eric Tichy
The local 4-H program, which lost all of its county funding this year, is expected to set up an endowment through the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. Once established, the organization hopes to raise $2 million by 2017 through private and public donations.
Kidd told the committee she has met several local and national corporations about donating into the endowment. She said 4-H will look for donations of $5,000 or more, but the organization will accept smaller contributions.
"That is our intent, to seek corporate sponsors," Kidd said. "... We are looking for ongoing continuous support, too."
The Chautauqua County 4-H program has 463 members, with an additional 156 volunteers. The organization has one full- and one half-time employee.
The largest 4-H program, meanwhile, is in Wyoming County, which has 934 members, 232 volunteers and eight staff. The group there received $185,495 in county support this year.
Due to "uncertainty of funding" in 2013, enrollment fees were increased in Chautauqua County from $20 to $50, with a maximum fee of $200 per family. The Cornell Cooperative Extension board of directors approved the enrollment hike in its August meeting.
"Some of (the members) are panicking, they're worried," Kidd said, noting that it was too early to determine if the enrollment increase deterred families from joining the organization.
With funding cutbacks in recent years, 4-H has suspended numerous programs. Suspensions include: teen career exploration trips to Albany, New York City and Washington, D.C.; junior award trips; a veterinary services course; leader and youth award recognitions; and volunteer leaders training.
The organization's presence at the Chautauqua County Fair remains in question.
"I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the fair won't go on without 4-H, but I will do everything I can to keep a youth show there," Kidd told the committee.
County Executive Greg Edwards said he hoped to include bridge funding in his tentative budget for the endowment. The county executive noted he has been in communication with Dianne Baker, CCE executive director for Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties.
"To be fair, we will continue to find appropriate means for our programs," Edwards said Thursday. "I will continue to speak to Dianne and keep that dialogue going."
Edwards would not elaborate when asked if county funding to 4-H would be included in his budget, set to be unveiled to the legislature next week.